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Wednesday June 29th

'Historical moment': Compass Center appoints Christian Adams as executive director

<p>Christian Adams has been appointed as the new executive director of the Compass Center, making her the first black woman to fill this role. Photo courtesy of Christian Adams.</p>
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Christian Adams has been appointed as the new executive director of the Compass Center, making her the first black woman to fill this role. Photo courtesy of Christian Adams.

Compass Center for Women and Families announced this month that Christian Adams has been appointed as its new executive director. She will be the first Black woman to hold the role full time.

Compass Center provides career and financial education, domestic violence crisis and prevention programs, legal resources aid and youth health programs for individuals and families in Orange County.

When she heard about the executive director position, Adams said it was a full-circle moment.

In 2004, Adams said she relied on the resources of a domestic violence center in order to escape an abusive marriage.

“When I heard that this was a domestic violence center, for me, it was like I get to return to North Carolina to actually lead an organization that was the type of organization that propelled me into being the woman I am today,” she said.

Adams began working as executive director on March 1.

“It has definitely been overwhelming, but yet this historical moment for me to be able to step into an organization that has predominantly been white-led,” she said.

Prior to Adams' appointment, Bethann West James served as Compass Center's interim executive director. James began the role last summer, after the center's initial search for an executive director was inconclusive.

“Christian brings a unique array of experience, insight, energy and compassion to Compass Center,” Gillian Hare, chairperson of the center's board of directors, said in a March announcement. “Her understanding of the needs of our clients is deeply rooted in her lived experience.”

Before her role at the Compass Center, Adams served as program manager at Access Reproductive Care Southeast in Atlanta, a nonprofit that provides funding and support to individuals in the South for "safe and compassionate reproductive care."

One of her top priorities for Compass Center is finding sustainable funding.

During the pandemic, Adams said capacity at the center has been limited due to high turnover. It has also recently lacked the funding to increase salaries for staff members, she said.

“(I hope) to be able to support Compass Center in providing equitable salaries and benefits for the staff that have been helping do this work and are currently still doing this work with no equitable salaries in place,” Adams said.

She added that she has a background not only in management, but also in reproductive and social justice. 

“As a human rights activist, someone that has been working in Atlanta for the last five years doing the work of reproductive health rights and justice, I am bringing to this center the ability to actually use an equitable lens," she said. "Not only when we’re thinking about staffing, but also how we continue to make sure that Compass Center is invested in the development of Orange County."

Ariana Vigil, professor and chairperson of the UNC women’s and gender studies department, said Compass Center’s ability to provide more than just lodging to survivors of abuse is a necessary resource in the Chapel Hill community.

More than 2,500 Orange County residents reported domestic violence in 2019, according to the center's website.

“Generations ago, people would only offer a shelter or a physical space, and they do offer that as well, but they approach this from a more holistic standpoint,” Vigil said. “They offer workshops and classes on financial literacy and recognizing healthy and unhealthy relationships.”

Adams said she plans to increase support for women who use the center's services to be self-sufficient.

“I’m definitely hoping to accomplish building infrastructure, so getting our policies and procedures up to equitable standards," she said.

Compass Center began providing housing after more than 250 people called requesting emergency housing in 2019. At that time, no domestic violence shelter existed in Orange County.

This led the center to create a plan to provide “scattered housing” — leasing three to six apartments scattered across Orange County to shelter domestic violence victims for up to three months. 

Currently, the center operates three apartments and expects to open another one this year, Acting Development Director Pallavi Sukhia said in an email.

@carolinewills03 | @DTHCityState  

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